A middle-aged love affair

By Anne-Marie Bruzga

Eugene Stickland’s Midlife proves there’s no atypical midlife crisis.

While the play centers around Jack-an older oil exec drawn to a younger woman, Amber-it avoids delving into clichés about love, lust and betrayal. Instead, Midlife provides the audience with keen insight into the male psyche and a hell of a lot of laughs.

This success lies primarily in great writing. Stickland employs humour to create sympathetic characters. There are no caricatures-pure villains or pure heroes-just three people that make certain choices. So, the audience smiles as Jack negotiates a tryst with Amber, they chuckle at his interactions with his younger subordinate, Johnny Delvecchio, and they roar when Jack learns about "humping" via the Internet. This would not be possible without the enormous talent of Ric Reid as Jack.

Reid’s line delivery and comic timing allows the audience to like and even love Jack, despite the choices he makes. At times, he launches into Jackie Gleason-like complaints about his wife while simultaneously showing a vulnerability to which the audience clings. For all that befalls him, you feel such empathy; Jack’s journey becomes the audience’s journey.

Kevin Kruchkywich, playing Johnny Delvecchio, holds his own against Reid. Kruchkywich successfully navigates his way through a complex character, who moves from a position of naivete and pain to one of power. He is both charming and likeable-everything a land man/contract negotiator should be. Unlike Reid, however, Kruchkywich’s comic timing needs honing. He doesn’t allow as much give and take between himself and the audience; his lines are often lost in laughter, which is too bad because some of them are doozies.

Midlife’s only weak point lies in Daniela Vlaskalic’s portrayal of Amber. There are major chronological differences between Vlaskalic and Amber. If Amber is a new graduate that still lives at home, then she’s 22 years-old, maybe 23. On stage, however, Vlaskalic, appears to be in her late 20s, which is, perhaps, too old to embody the exuberance of youth.

Maybe, because of this, Vlaskalic never succeeds in getting a handle on her character. Her character’s blind enthusiasm about her new job comes off like over-acting and is, at times, painful to watch. Her motivation is unclear and her facial expressions are often confusing, not intriguing. Simply put, she’s out of sync with her character. As a result, she just can’t compete with the dynamic duo of Reid and Kruchkywich, which is critical because this play is a trio, not a duet.

Still, kudos should be handed to director Bob White who, otherwise, pulls off a great production. He cast the male roles extremely well and utilizes lighting rather than scenery to create a rich story.

Midlife is both comic and insightful-well worth checking out.